The Key to Customer Service

You say you can't afford it… but you can't afford not to

by Bruce Turkel

Mr. Turkel is CEO of Turkel Brands, a full-service, multicultural brand management firm located in Miami, Florida. He blogs regularly on marketing, PR & advertising issues and trends. Visit Reprinted with permission.

I just left a message for a highly successful buddy of mine. Or at least I tried reaching him. His receptionist was so busy, so stressed, and so rude that her best customer service was to tell me to “call back later.”

Now as it happens, I will call back. And it won’t be a problem because I have his home number and his cell number. But what if I were a potential client trying to decide whether or not to send a big piece of business his way? You say you can’t afford customer service? You can’t afford to hire someone with highly developed interpersonal skills to answer your phone? I say you can’t afford not to.

Because you must start branding your business with good customer service long before your customer actually talks to your highly-exalted and oh-so-busy self. I know, I know. You get a hundred phone calls a day. So do I.

The “Nuke a Whale for the Middle East” charity wants my time and money and so does every other sales rep this side of Sarajevo. But we’re talking about a brick of gold in the haystack here, not a needle. Can you afford to throw away the million-dollar inquiry amongst the dross because you can’t afford customer service? Nowhere is the “almost every phone call is a complete and utter waste of time” paradigm more true than for personal injury attorneys.

Recognizing the Big Picture

“Thirty years ago, my ex-husband’s cousin almost slipped in an abandoned building and might have hurt himself and the voices in my head told me to call you so you can represent us.” Now you don’t need a law degree to know that the value of this case is zero. The statute of limitations has run out; the caller has no legal standing regarding her ex; her ex didn’t sustain an actual injury; the owner of the abandoned building can’t be found and has no money; the caller may have mental health issues. Who even knows if the building is still standing? But should the customer service rep say, “Ms. Hot-Shot is in a meeting”? Should they communicate, “we only work with clients for whom there is a potential payout”? Should they announce, “Go take a long walk off a short pier”? No, no, a thousand times no.

...we’re talking about a brick of gold in the haystack here, not a needle

Because this caller may have a million-dollar case subsequently or she may have a neighbor who does. And if she gets blown off by your imperious assistant, that good case is going to wind up somewhere else.

Somewhere where they understand customer service. This woman needs customer service. She needs to be invited in and given a cup of tea. She needs a brochure and maybe a refrigerator magnet. She needs to feel welcome and wanted.

Because five years from now when she is wrongfully injured by a wealthy drunk driving a brand new Porsche convertible, you want her to remember where your office is and how gracious your staff was. Benjamin Franklin, who, by all accounts, was more successful than you or I, got it right: “For the want of a nail the shoe was lost. For the want of a shoe the horse was lost. For the want of a horse the rider was lost. For the want of a rider the battle was lost. For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

We are taught to focus on “big picture” items to make our businesses successful. But big is not always better. Wouldn’t today be a good time to make sure that the door to your business is truly open. And that the welcome sign is brightly lit? Wouldn’t today be a good time to focus on your customer service?